Editors' note: This review is part of our Holiday 2008 Retail Laptop Roundup, covering specific new configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
We've generally liked Toshiba's current Satellite line of laptops, most notable for a clever Sleep-and-Charge feature, which lets you charge USB devices even if the laptop is powered off. The Toshiba Satellite U405D-S2874 is a fixed-configuration 13-inch laptop, a size most closely associated with the popular MacBook line.
This model is substantially similar to the Satellite U405D-S2852 we looked at over the summer, and shares its main flaws: an underpowered AMD processor and mediocre battery life. Compounding that problem, the entry-level MacBook is now only $999, making the $949 Satellite seem even more overpriced, considering its disappointing benchmark scores. There are clearly better (though bigger and heavier) options in the just-less-than-$1,000 category such as the 14-inch Asus X83VB-X1, the 15-inch Dell Studio S1535-143B, or the 16-inch Gateway Gateway MC7801u.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$949|
|Processor||2.1GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 Dual-Core RM-72|
|Memory||4GB, PC6400 DDR2 SDRAM|
|Hard drive||250GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||ATI Radeon 3100 (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WDH)||12.4x9.0x1.4 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||13.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.0/5.9 pounds|
|Category||Thin and light|
Toshiba refers to the current Satellite design as a "Horizon" pattern in a "Fusion" finish, which basically means silver-gray and black pinstripes that combine for a distinct metallic sheen. It's a smart look that will work in both casual and professional settings, but the lid is far too fingerprint-prone, as are the glossy keyboard keys. We did, however, like that the touch pad is totally flush with the wrist rest--using a different, matte surface material for the touch pad, so you can still easily discern the active area.
The most interesting feature is something called Sleep-and-Charge, which means you can plug in and charge USB devices (iPods, mobile phones, and so on) even if the laptop is in sleep or hibernate mode (and even if it is unplugged, though it will drain the battery). And you can power USB devices when the laptop is totally powered off, too, as long as it's plugged into an outlet. Most laptops provide power to USB ports only while they're turned on. Note that this feature is turned off by default for some reason, and you'll have to hunt around to figure out how to turn it on, as it's buried in a series of submenus. (Start > All Programs > Toshiba>Utilities > HWStup > USB).
The 13-inch wide-screen LCD offers a 1,280x800-pixel native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size and larger 14- and 15-inch models. We generally prefer matte finishes on laptops screens, but didn't mind the glossy display on the U405, (or Toshiba's other Satellites) as it seemed more resistant to excessive glare than other glossy screens.
|Toshiba U405D-S2852||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
As on the previous U405 we looked at, there's a labeled spot for an HDMI output, but it's plugged shut, leaving only the VGA output for video. There's no Bluetooth, but at least there's an eSATA port for connecting an external hard drive and an ExpressCard slot.
In all the systems we've looked at in our Holiday Retail Laptop Roundup, those with AMD CPUs have consistently underperformed Intel-powered laptops in the same price range. This was also true of the U405, which had a 2.1GHz GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 Dual-Core RM-72. It was noticeably slower than the Dell Studio S1535-143B and the Asus X83VB-X1, both of which have Intel's midrange 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5800 for roughly the same price.
The Satellite U405 ran for 2 hours and 54 minutes on our video playback battery-drain test, which is better than the last U405 we looked at by about 50 minutes, thanks to a new extended battery that sticks out from the back of the system. But, it's still a far cry from the 4-plus hours the Dell Studio S1535-143B gets from its similarly large extended battery.
Toshiba includes an industry-standard, one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line and a reasonable detailed online knowledge base. Retail stores offer a variety of extended warranty plans with your laptop purchase, but they're generally expensive and hard to use, so we do not recommend them.